Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kent County Levy Court Vote on Dog Control

All I have to say good about tonight's Kent County Levy Court meeting is thank god for the video streams.  What a long meeting it was. The animal portion of the meeting isn't until 3:30:30 into the streamed meeting.

So it appears the the county wants to negotiate with Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Georgetown, DE.  There was discussion about still looking into finding kennels in Kent County that could be leased, but to date they haven't been able to find any, so Kent County residents may have to make a 35-40 mile haul to Georgetown to pick up their animal if it's lost. I'm sure that will have an impact on pet retention.

One has to wonder why commissioners would want to turn over dog control to a director that doesn't know dog laws after being here in that position for several years, particularly dangerous dog laws which are the most important. And they will be expecting her to train new officers in the several weeks what she hasn't learned in several years.  Okay, that should certainly be interesting.  More concerning were her comments about dangerous dogs being "very rare" and "a lot of fear mongering".  I think Safe Haven's view on handling dangerous dogs can be shown most clearly in the Cape Gazette Letter to the Editor of 2/10/12 below.  Keep in mind that dogs aren't just dangerous to people, but also when they are attacking our pets as we walk down the street with our dogs properly restrained.  So while the more horrific cases may be rare, does the Kent County Levy Court really want to subject residents to situations like the one listed in the screenshot below, that place dogs, residents, and most of all children in danger?

Safe Haven hasn't even been fully up and running yet, even though there were statements last year that they would be up and running a year ago.  So does Levy Court really think they'll be ready to take over in 3 weeks?  Maybe I should try and sell them a bridge across the bay to New Jersey.  

The organization has historically only taken in a couple hundred thousand dollars in non-earmarked donations.  On the meeting stream, the director mentioned all kinds of services that the shelter would pay for that wouldn't be a burden to the taxpayer, even though their debt service will probably take 3/4 of that non-earmarked donation base, and the little left will only pay for a couple workers for the shelter.  Seriously, do any of our commissioners have a business bone in their body to believe this is realistic from a financial perspective?   

And have any of the commissioners or County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange even taken the time to get a referral from the Kentucky Animal Care & Control Board, or from the officials from KY listed in the newspaper article on the Citizens to Save Safe Haven website, to ensure the safety of our animals?  For that matter, I'll be curious to see if our newspapers have the courage to look into this.

I know my commissioner has 2 less votes from my household this fall with how poorly this has been handled. And if it all falls apart during the transition, which could cost us even more, then that may be true for all of the commissioners up for re-election.  When we hit July 1, I'll definitely need to change the countdown clock to one that shows the days elapsed to when we have dog control again.  And I certainly can't wait until the next incident involving an alligator or loose steer has to be handled in our county, because the commission has yet to address who they will have handle that.  I can already see the animal activist firestorm when a local police officer has to put one down with their guns

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Cat's Life In Delaware

The kitten article on WBOC should be an eye opener to some today. This is what life looks like in a state without an open access shelter for cats & kittens, after the costs of CAPA forced Kent County SPCA to no longer continue open access for cats.
"When I found them, it looked like someone took a lighter to their eyes, they didn't have any fur around their eyes. Their eyes wouldn't open. They were in pretty bad condition. Their spines were showing, they were really skinny," she said. "We couldn't get them to eat or drink." 
After bringing them to her house she believed the next step for the kittens would be a trip to the Kent County SPCA. 
"I just took them and I thought the SPCA would take them the next day and I went there and they wouldn't take them," she said - WBOC Article 6/22/12
This is what people are dealing with in our post CAPA world. What the girl in the story needs to understand is that this is what the brave new world of "no-kill" looks like.  Tens of thousands of cats and kittens left on the street -  many with eye infections, worms and parasites, emaciated, and fight wounds.  Not my idea of humane, but apparently this is what Delaware's legislature and governor wanted when they passed CAPA. 

There's no magic cure as they would have you believe. It's just a difference in how they die - by painless injection at the shelter that used to be done, or now by disease, under someones car tires, or by trauma inflicted by other wildlife like foxes and coyotes. Just so our "no-kill" groups can claim success of meeting an arbitrary number to impress their friends at their next convention.

Sadly we're starting to see other localities considering the "leave cats on the streets" approach.

Sutter County, Take Heed of Delaware's Example
"Beginning Sept. 1, the animal control officers will stop picking up healthy cats and stop accepting feral ones brought to the shelter on Second Street in Yuba City." - 6-19-12
This policy was decided based on a recommendation by Kate Hurley, director of the U.C. Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program.  While I usually respect Dr. Hurley's opinion, I disagree with her assessment in this case. The state of Delaware has been an experiment in what doesn't work. Currently, not one of our shelters has open access for cats, so we've had the opportunity to see what this approach looks like. There are groups doing TNR throughout the state, but as is the case in most communities, there are limited resources. As a result, I don't think there's anyone in this state that isn't dealing with more cats now than they were before. There are people dealing with 10, 20 and I've even heard reports of 30 cats on a property. 

As the assessment stated, this choice in Sutter County was made due to the financial constraints of a lower income community. Well how are these lower income residents going to find money in their budgets to spay neuter cats that they don't own, but dropped their babies under the resident's shed?  I guarantee that the shelter and county officials will hear from individuals dealing with this situation time and again as you go forward with this plan.

Some of those callers will be in tears because they don't know what to do as they can't afford to get them spayed, and are frustrated because the number on their property keeps getting larger. Some will tell you that they know they should have drowned the kittens, but didn't have the heart to. That won't be the person to be concerned about, it will be the ones that don't call that will harm the animals. You will even get grown men nearly in tears because they can't watch the kittens starve, but are barely getting by themselves. It seems to me that this policy is merely shifting the burden onto the unlucky individual that has a couple litters dropped on their property, and that makes it their problem and not the communities. So lets be honest, they won't be "community cats", they will be the burden of the residents who draw the short straw.

I'm not saying TNR isn't a tool to help control the population if it is done responsibly. And I'm not saying euthanasia is the only way either. But there needs to be a balanced approach that includes all the tools in the box to keep the situation from getting out of control.  We all know the kitten story above isn't an isolated case, this is the sad fate for so many cats in our state now. 

Other Delaware News

I was a little confused by a letter posted on the Kent County SPCA website, which was sent out by one of our Kent County Commissioners:
Commissioner Buckson has sent this email out to Board Members and government officials: 
The statement in quotes and copied below was taken from the KCSPCA website that I reviewed tonight. 
"The Kent County SPCA spent months in negotiations and conversations with the Kent County Levy Court Commissioners, but no agreement was reached" 
I want to state for the record that this statement is FALSE. As I told you in my previous email, the only conversations referencing contract negotiations occurred on June 5th. If Kevin Usilton is responsible for maintaining the site, I question his integrity. If he is not responsible for the site, I question his leadership in not removing the statement because he knows first hand that it is misleading at best. 
Misleading statements like these are why I implore the board to lead and not follow. 
The commissioner implies that there has been no "conversations" regarding the contract prior to June 5th. Seriously, did I imagine the 3/6/12 discussion where KCSPCA tried to impress on the commission that their expenses were higher due to CAPA?  As I recall, the commission stated that CAPA was not their problem even though the hold period and additional steps required also applies to stray animals taken in under their contract. Here's the meeting of 3/6 if anyone wants to watch. Whew, glad to see I didn't imagine it.

And yes, after that 3/6 meeting, there were some that could see the denial was not going to be good for Kent County.  Well, actually that was me.

Of course, this is also how the June 5 meeting started out as well. The costs of CAPA is not the counties problem.

So, if the county has to setup and run their own shelter, will CAPA be their problem now? Absolutely.

Will the county have to pay expenses for vaccinations in 8 hours, a vet exam within 72 hours, personnel to deal with rescue transfers, funds required for care of animals under foster care, personnel to answer phone calls from citizens looking for their dog? Yes again.

So the commissioners can live in a fantasy world where they don't think CAPA applies to them, but the reality is it does, so they better take this into account as they consider all the alternatives. Denial didn't work on 3/6, and it doesn't work now.  KCSPCA didn't do this to you, state legislators and your governor did.

I've also enjoyed watching the discussion on a local message board.  I even managed to stay out of that discussion since there appears to be other county residents that can also see the writing on the wall about what this may cost local taxpayers.

And just so everyone has a nice little reminder that the clock is ticking, I added a cute little Java countdown clock on the side of the page so Kent County residents will know how much longer they have until they will need that pepper spray.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The No-Kill Goal - To Kill Competition

The headline in one of our local newspapers today couldn't have been more appropriate with what has been occurring in Kent County this past week:
"No-Kill Hopes to Kill Competition" -

"Sussex County's newest animal shelter -- a facility that hopes to persuade the state's counties to rely on no-kill options for animal control.... The shelter hopes to sharpen a philosophical divide between no-kill shelters in Sussex and New Castle and the Kent County SPCA, the state's largest animal shelter. The SPCA is contracted to practice dog control in all three counties, taking in abandoned dogs and investigating animal cruelty cases. It also euthanizes animals it takes in when they are ill, deemed too aggressive or when there is simply no room to house them.  Safe Haven hopes to take over animal control duties in southern Delaware by competing for a county dog-control contract that amounts to $669,000 this year."  -
The Taxpayers Lose

As I've stated previously, I do think the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate what's occurring here.  I've always thought that the political ties to "no-kill" organizations here in Delaware brought forward CAPA as a means to either bankrupt Kent County SPCA, or push them out of being a competitive and cost effective alternative for animal control.  As such, by getting KCSPCA out of the way, the "no-kill" groups could use their absence to extort more and more money out of taxpayers at the county level once the government took over animal control like in Austin and Washoe County.  Since they could not get a referendum in Delaware like those communities, "killing the competition" was their best alternative.  Whether it ends up that the government takes over animal control in our counties, or whether the "no-kill" organizations, like the one in the article above, use animal control as a means to provide funds that they lack to operate, the taxpayers of every county loses since "no-kill" has been costly in every major area.   

Remember, animal control for Wilmington was already up in the air beginning July 1, but Kent County was the first county focus of activists since their contract is reviewed mid year.  Apparently the activists consider the meeting of June 5th as a victory, because they've already began their campaign to do the same in Sussex and New Castle counties.  

The reason I wanted to include the screenshot above is to contrast it with the comment below made in a recent article:
'Mr. Guy said Sussex receives complaints regarding the service the KCSPCA is providing very infrequently."- Delaware State News 6-10-12
Do I think the "no-kill" activists will find what they're looking for?  Absolutely.  If I go and ask a bunch of sexual offenders whether they were unfairly convicted, I think we all  know there will be a bunch of complaints that they were.  If you go looking for people that were ticketed or convicted of animal crimes, you'll find the same.  We've all seen the comments on NKD's Facebook page about how the KCSPCA wronged them, the Deputy Attorney General wronged them, the judge wronged them, etc.  

Hopefully the other counties will be more capable of distinguishing the fact that there were infrequent complaints before the above campaign and recognize that every agency has not conspired with KCSPCA.  They should take into account the caliber of people that are attracted to the hateful and excuse laden message that No-Kill Delaware has to sell.  

Public Safety And Animal Welfare Will Be Compromised

The other major issue that should be of concern is, how will this affect public safety?  I've included the screenshot below, because the no-kill philosophy is apparent in the statement made.  The screenshot below is a post on No-Kill Delaware's Facebook page: 
"They have 20, seriously 20 found dogs from today.  Stop driving around looking for strays: less wear and tear on the truck, less fuel, less man powe, etc.  More kennels open!" - NKD Facebook

Yes, this is how how "no-kill" believes animal control should be done.  Leave stray dogs on the street.  Dead dogs with tire treads on the side of the road don't risk the "no-kill" organization's ability to stay under their 10% quota of animals allowed to be euthanized.  And yes, some of them will say that doesn't represent their view on animal control, but there are numerous references that say otherwise:
"If we see a fat and happy Lab walking down the street and he's not a menace to the community," Chambers said, "maybe we leave him there, and maybe he's on his way home to dinner." - Broward endorses no-kill goal for animal shelters -
Hopefully the fat happy Lab isn't out for a jaunt to rip some kids face off.

And I can't imagine the average person in Delaware would want dogs to stay with a dogfighter.
"Killing is not rescue.  These dogs were better off with the alleged dogfighter.  At least then there was a hope that they could be rescued by someone willing to help them transition to normal lives as pets or failing that, get them to sanctuary.  Now there is no hope." - YesBiscuit!
Our future will have communities where families are concerned for the safety of their children due to dogs at-large.  Communities where your pet dog is left to roam and possibly die, strictly because he didn't fall within the 10% euthanasia quota for the month.  And this doesn't even include the ever growing cat population and the rabies risk that will grow with that population.
At the turn of the last century large, wild dog packs roamed freely throughout the state, killing livestock, spreading disease, and causing mayhem for farmers and other citizens. The problem had to be addressed. - Delaware Dog Control History, DNREC 
So while I'm sure there are some celebrating the chaos created by CAPA in Kent County, most reasonable people know that it may cost us dearly for a time, but we need to keep in mind how quickly places like Philadelphia failed under the "no-kill" flag.  And we've seen how Austin is still hundreds of animals over capacity despite millions of dollars, and a tremendous effort by the staff and volunteers there.  To be honest, from what I've seen, I don't think those leading the effort here even know how to work that hard, so hopefully our pain will be short lived.  It's just unfortunate that precious resources will be wasted in the process that could have been used to prevent future births, rather than playing the hateful games we've seen.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kent County - Get Your Checkbooks and Pepper Spray Ready

I've discussed Kent County previously because I've always suspected that this would be the first of the counties to fall where animal control is concerned.  Needless to say, between the recent article in the Delaware State News, and after watching the Kent County Levy Court meeting of 6/5, it seems that suspicion is even more likely now.

The reason I thought that Kent County would be the one is due to the posturing that has occurred over the last year, and the alliances that one of our council members appears to have with an interesting cast of characters - one who declared he was going to run for governor in an article on 3/16 and then on 3/25 drops out of the race with no reason, a disgruntled former board member of the Kent County SPCA who was removed from the board, a woman who was upset when child protective services was called by Kent County SPCA where that agency removed her children from a home for 7 days in a home 6 dogs and 18 cats (a county code violation) also resided, another one who accepted an agreement for probation as she was in the process of being prosecuted by a Deputy Attorney General for animals at large and now claims foul, and the list goes on.   I think we can all see the pattern here, so it's no surprise that the situation has escalated to this point.

While I don't know why the Kent County SPCA representatives chose to leave that meeting, I will say that I found it odd that a conference call under executive session was called in the middle of the discussion.  In most cases, commissions have enough respect for those taking their time to attend a meeting to either time executive sessions after the meeting, or at least between the different subjects, not mid discussion.  Whether it be city or council meetings I have watched or attended, this was an unprecedented move to break up mid discussion for 27 minutes, and then act dumbfounded when the representatives left.  Maybe levy court needs to start scheduling their meetings time specific like more professional commission if they can't be handled their meetings better than that.

Prior to their hiatus, there was discussion about the fact that CAPA was costing Kent County SPCA significantly, but the council stated that they are not subject to those requirements and that is KCSPCA's problem.  After they finally returned, there was a great deal of discussion about various options available to them for animal control going forward.  There was also discussion about why they are paying for anything other than picking up the animals, like housing the animals, feeding the animals, vetting the animals, etc.  Well that is what animal control does.  Did they think officers would pick up the animals and throw them into the ocean to save the county those costs?  Well the fact is, donors to Kent County SPCA has been subsidizing the counties for some time and the organization can no longer do that with the added costs under CAPA.

Whether it is the shelter subsidizing dog control for the counties, or rounding up alligators and bulls that they aren't paid for, it should be interesting to see who is going to do those duties that KCSPCA was doing as a free service in the past.  My bet is that state and county officials won't even consider anything outside of dog control until they are faced with some dangerous animal at large, and then they will scramble to come up with some kind of solution at that point.  Hopefully nobody is harmed while they scratch their heads and wonder who they should call when that happens.

What Happens Next

Kent County Levy Court has several options available to them regarding dog control.

1.  Come to an agreement with Kent County SPCA for a 6 month extension.  This option will buy the county time, but considering the commissioner and his alliances, and their constant attempts to impose themselves into the non-profits board meetings, I suspect we are probably past this point already.

Those of us that watch animal welfare issues across the country realize that the commission has escalated the matter much like what occurred in Fresno, CA.  In that community members of their council, including the council president, complained about their shelter's euthanasia rate and attempted the same intrusive tactics of trying to open the  Central California SPCA  board meetings to the public on behalf of no-kill advocates and rescues.  So the CCSPCA said they had enough.  Now residents of Fresno are waiting to see what this push for "no-kill" will eventually cost the taxpayers, whether the council can scramble and get something into place by the deadline, and how quickly those same rescues will be griping at the government run shelter if euthanasia rates don't drop.  Sounds so familiar to those of us who have been watching this play out in our own community.

2.  Hire County Animal Control Officers and contract with a shelter to house the animals.  This option is pretty much a non-starter as well.  Since the CAPA requirements are what increased costs with additional vaccinations, longer hold times that result in higher costs (food, shelter staff to care for more animals, more veterinary care, etc), then any shelter that houses the animals will still have this unfunded mandate on their organizations back, and the costs associated with it.  There was one suggestion to pay to house animals on a per animal basis, but one only needs to look at the same scramble to find alternatives taking place in Delaware County PA, where it has been costly, and they have yet to find a permanent solution a year later.

3.  Kent County hire ACO's and the staff to run their own shelter.  Unless some dramatic action is taken, this is probably the most likely scenario.  Since the officers and shelter staff will be under county salary and benefits, this option will be costly to taxpayers.  One discussion at the meeting brought up the fact that the county will most likely only handle unincorporated sections of Kent County, and letting cities like Harrington, Camden, Felton, and others fend for themselves.

While offloading responsibility on the cities will help offset some of the increase in salaries, the counties and cities in Kent County need to understand that CAPA (Title 3, Chapter 80) will apply to their own shelters that house the animals:
(1) "Animal shelter" means a public or private facility which includes a physical structure that provides temporary or permanent shelter to stray, abandoned, abused, or owner-surrendered animals and that is operated, owned, or maintained by a duly incorporated humane society, animal welfare society, or other nonprofit organization for the purpose of providing for and promoting the welfare, protection, and humane treatment of animals.
§ 8005. Proper facilities required.
Any municipality that does not have proper facilities and trained personnel shall transport in a humane manner any animals which are to be euthanized to the nearest private or public shelter or agency which has proper facilities and trained personnel or contract for euthanasia of such animals by a licensed veterinarian.
So all the provisions regarding vaccination in 8 hours, posting of stats quarterly, foster homes, transfers to rescues on a registry, and others, will apply to the counties and cities that have shelters.  The very law that is currently being used as a weapon of harassment against Kent County SPCA, will become a weapon to harass cities and counties, and their officials.  Again keep in mind that all the positions to do these tasks will also be higher cost county salaries and benefits.  So good luck with that commissioners.

The result will be that Kent County residents will have to go from town to town to county trying to find their missing pet. Sure doesn't sound like CAPA is saving animals to me!!  And most likely the cities will have limited hours making it even more difficult to find your pet.

I can also imagine how poor the response time to pick up stray dogs will be when the county and cities end up arguing about who has jurisdiction to pick up strays, so I'm sure glad I have pepper spray to protect my dog on walks.

So if this does happen and our taxes go up and the service is worse, we can all thank our county officials for their apathy when CAPA was proposed.  They didn't protect their county constituents, but later cried about an unfunded mandate, so they also bear part of the responsibility for the situation they are in.  And we can thank your state legislators and Governor that passed CAPA for the added taxes and difficulty finding our pet, and the possibly tragic result of that.

4. Have the state repeal CAPA, admit it was a mistake, and rebuild the bridges burned in it's wake.  While this option would be the most fiscally responsible, and best for the animals, I doubt that there's strong enough leadership in the state to make such an admission in an election year. Considering the arrogance, self congratulation, alliances among certain shelters and politicians, and PR photo ops by the leadership that brought us CAPA, it's doubtful that the sane and responsible choice will prevail.

Wait and See

Basically all we can do is wait and see what the outcome will be.  

This week, SB211 (the tether bill) passed the senate, despite concerns about how difficult it would be to enforce it, short of having ACO's or police officers doing 18+ hour stake outs at home to see if a dog is tethered more than 18 hours in a 24 hour period.  It also makes one wonder whether that will take police away from duties to prevent real crime like home invasions and assaults.  Now there is the added concern of whether police will also be picking up stray dogs if there is a period without any dog control.  

So if Assemblyman Magee in NY has any doubt that he made the right decision for his state, rest assured, this could have been the result in communities across NY if CAARA had passed.  The NY Assembly Agriculture Committee had much more wisdom than we've seen by any politician in our state, and NY citizens should be grateful.